History of Governance

Student representatives gather for the first ever “town meeting” (September 29th, 1964)

Over the past 52 years, Pitzer College has established itself as a unique institution because of the emphasis it places on community governance and student voice. Perhaps the most important aspect of the governance structure at Pitzer is that power is shared amongst members of the student body, faculty, and staff. The array of standing committees and governing organizations which exist at the College has long been composed of a mixture of these different constituencies, based on a model that promotes working together in a democratic and collaborative fashion.

The following timeline is part of an independent study project created by a group of six students. Each of the moments captured by this timeline represent an important development in the process of “shared governance”—a process which has helped to shape Pitzer College Student Senate into the organization which exists today.

Shared Governance Timeline


1963: Pitzer College encouraged students to develop both independence and a sense of responsibility by delegating to them the management of many of their own affairs. Provisions for an active Student Government were to be made.

Town Hall Meeting (1)
Students gather for a Town Meeting

1964: The Community Government of Pitzer College was drawn up in the 1964-1965 academic school year by a planning board consisting of nine students and one faculty member:

  • On September 9th, Pitzer holds its second Town Hall Meeting: 3 administrators, 38 faculty members, and 75 students were present.
  • By the thirteenth Town Hall Meeting, the community had established an Honor Court (9 students), a Social Review Board (2 faculty members, 5 students, and a student chairperson), and a Governance Planning Board (9 students, 1 faculty)

1965: In May of this year, a formalized Community Government Plan was officially adopted by a ballot vote of the entire Pitzer College community.

Professor McConnell

It was the mid 60s… the whole impetus of the culture in the late 60s and early 70s was toward getting rid of hierarchies, flattening things, opening things up, and participation. It didn’t matter if the meeting got anything done as long as everybody got a chance to participate…Pitzer was absolutely a part of that. It was founded right in the middle of it, it was founded as an alternative college, it was founded as a social sciences college. A lot of the people who were sympathetic to what was going on what was going on the street wanted to replicate that in the governance structure of the place.” —Stuart McConnell, Professor of History

1966: Extensive revisions were made to the Community Government Plan:

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Original Board of Trustees
  • Inclusion of trustees as members of the Pitzer Community
  • Judicial Council was created, composed of 4 students and 6 faculty
  • Independent Senate of Claremont Colleges faculty was established, helping to voice issues of intercollegiate concern
The essence of the Community Government is that responsibility for policy and administration is shared by faculty, administration, and students in all areas delegated to the Community Government by the faculty. At present the only areas reserved for exclusive faculty consideration are matters of appointments, promotions and tenure, and matters related to the curriculum and the instructional budget.” —Werner E. Warmbrunn
Professor Macaulay

There was an absolutely unprecedented decision to have a student on the Executive Committee of the Faculty– voting on appointments, promotion, and tenure. It horrified my colleagues at the other institutions.”—Ron Macaulay, Professor of Linguistics 1965-2001

1968: President Atherton created an ad hoc committee on co-education to present a proposal to the Board of Trustees that Pitzer College should become co-educational. The committee is composed of 2 trustees, 2 faculty members, and 2 students. This committee was formed on November 12, 1968, and met for first time on December 4, 1968.
  • Members: Mrs. Morthland, Mr. Bernard, Ellen Ringler, Harvey Botwin, Lynn Harris, and Karen Hilfman. Hilfman replaced by Martha Hart in the 2nd semester when she went to Washington
  • The committee submitted their final proposal to the Pitzer Community in June 1969
  • President Atherton urges members of the Pitzer Community to attend a special Town Hall Meeting on November 14th, where community members approve the following resolution: “Be it resolved that Pitzer College shall admit male students on the same basis as female students as soon as practicable.” 130 voted in favor and 87 opposed the resolution.
  • The recommendations from the Town Hall Meeting were sent to Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees
Students vote during a Town Meeting in 1966

By now it is undoubtedly obvious that the Loyal Opposition hopes that we leave the honors system, which has been proposed, to those venerable institutions from which it has been copied which were founded in a different psychological climate in previous centuries, and that we base our ultimate decisions not on the tradition of other institutions but on the new knowledge of the nature of learning and the development of value systems which has come to us in the present century. And perhaps most important, we may wish to base our ultimate decision on faith in the potential of our students to learn for intrinsic reasons (“learning for learning’s sake”) and in the potential of the faculty to help students in this endeavor.” — Letter to College Council from “The Loyal Opposition”, December 1st


When I got here I felt it wasn’t working very well. And that what we had was two systems of government or governance, one a faculty driven one and another one as student driven one, and the student driven one wasn’t working.” —President Robert H. Atwell
1970: During an annual meeting held on May 13th, the Board of Trustees voted to accept the resolution to enact a co-educational enrollment plan that would allow for the gradual enrollment of men.
During the 1970s, a movement to give students more power arose, but there was also severe student apathy that was constantly discussed.

They [the Board] were culturally misaligned with what the college was becoming. And at a certain point, [President Atherton] had to choose […] between supporting a black studies program, that was beginning, developing, and which the faculty was very much supportive of, […] and the board that did not want this much change. And he did what any self-respecting president would do. He okayed the black studies program and put in his resignation.” — Al Schwartz, Professor of Sociology & Dean of Faculty

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Gary Kates ’74

What we recognized was the faculty beginning to pull out of Town Meeting, create their own faculty organization. There had already been a faculty organization, but they were beginning to put more and more of the college business there. The president was going there. So Town Meeting, was in effect, left for ‘pets on campus’. That’s what I kind of didn’t see [in my first town meeting], but I came to see somewhere at the end of my freshmen year and in my sophomore year.” — Gary Kates ’74

1971: Al Schwartz was appointed Dean of Faculty on September 1st, after being selected by Faculty Executive Committee. The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees “enthusiastically” approved.

1972: The Student Appointments Committee was created to appoint students onto committees, instead of the College Council. This new committee separated students from faculty in the governance structure.

Governance at Pitzer: Background and Recommendations: In my view the 1972 changes which were intended to strengthen the democratic process have in effect weakened it. Worst of all, the identity of the faculty has been weakened. It never meets as a faculty or votes as a faculty. De facto it exists as an entity only as a voting constituency for the Executive Committee and in the telephone directory.” —Werner Warmbrunn, Professor of History

1973: Houston Lowry was appointed by Robert Atwell on November 14th to serve as student representative, as recommended by Student Appointments Committee, on the Budget Committee of the Board of Trustees

I haven’t mentioned shared governance once because there was nothing that was at issue to share. Shared governance comes in when there is a kind of confrontation in which the compromise resolution is shared governance. The faculty, though it was not put into any
statute, the faculty for the first twelve years of the college was clearly in charge.
” —Al Schwartz, Professor of Sociology

The Student Appointments Committee served its first year, consisting of eleven members: Dean of Students, Dean of Faculty, two faculty members, and seven students elected by the student body.

[Pitzer students] worked out a deal that we would compose 20% of the faculty meeting. That is, students would have the right to participate, and talk, and even be members in the faculty meeting, but our votes were at most one-fifth of the faculty.” — Gary Kates ’74

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Students participate in anti-draft rally

1975:Some of the other issues that arose were issues beyond faculty tenure. Honestly, I can’t remember what they were. I think the reason is that our activism at that time was not very much centered at Pitzer college […] was [due to the] war in Vietnam. We were organizing against that war. […] Our focus on activism were not focused on the campus level, but on the outside.” — Robin Kramer ’75, Trustee

1976:  In November, members of the faculty and the Board of Trustees held a 3-day retreat in the Palm Springs and Indio area.

Dean of Faculty removed as a voting member of FEC

President Atwell appoints ad hoc committee to examine responsibilities, structure, and budgets of existing committees and offices which directly affect res life: Dean of Students, Dean of Student Activities Director, Hall Directors, RAs, Community Relations Committee, and Community Resources Committee. The ad hoc committee also examines 4 students nominated by Student Appointments Committee and the President, 2 faculty members appointed by President on Advice of the FEC and DoF (11/01/76)

Ad Hoc Educational Policies Committee proposed. The Committee is comprised of 6 elected faculty and 2 elected students. The goal is to study and make recommendations on:

  • The Freshman Year, especially freshman academic programs.
  • The balance of academic programs offered for graduation between the liberal arts and work taken in the student’s field of concentration.
  • The broadening of the student’s on-going educational experience through such programs as convocations, senior colloquia, and college-wide educational conferences bringing nationally prominent figures to the campus
1978: The Community Relations Committee was created to give students power over the funding of events and projects at Pitzer College.
Professor Nardi

Some people thought there was a lot of top heavy behind the scenes going on among the people in the knew who are the deans and presidents. That a lot of decisions were made behind the scenes at higher-level committee meetings that faculty, students, and staff were excluded from. Earlier, some of the women faculty felt marginalized by the old boys network. It was pretty much a top heavy white male institution then and a lot of decision making in the old boy network system continued in the late 70s and early 80s. As things changed and evolved you had a lot more opening up of things with more diversity and acceptance of different viewpoints.” — Peter Nardi, Professor of Sociology

1978: Committee of the Future of the College — composed of 7 trustees, 4 faculty (3 alternates), and 1 student — holds an open meeting in Scott Hall Lounge. (03/16/78)

Presidential Search Committee is created, and composed of 6 trustees (including trustee chairperson), 3 faculty members (1 alternate), and 3 students (1 alternate). (04/04/78)

  • TRUSTEES: The trustees are appointed by the Chairman of the Board in consultation with the full Board and will include at least one graduate of Pitzer College.
  • FACULTY: The faculty members will be either elected by written ballot by the voting members of the faculty or appointed by the President on recommendation of the FEC. The FEC or the faculty may determine which of these alternative selection processes is used. If the former (election) procedure is used, the faculty will elect 6 persons from whom the President, in consultation with the FEC, will choose 3 plus an alternate.
  • STUDENTS: The student voting members of the faculty will elect (by written ballot) 6 students from whom the President in consultation with the Student Appointments Committee will select 3 plus an alternate. The students elected need not themselves be student voting members of the faculty meeting.

1979: Faculty, administration, and staff are invited to meet Dr. Ellsworth, one of the two candidates for the Presidential seat, to the Presidential Search Candidate Mixer. The invitation is not extended to students. (03/02/79)

Frank Ellsworth was appointed as the third President of Pitzer College and served until 1991. (07/01/79)


There were students on almost every faculty committee. […] Probably as a faculty member myself, in my long career, we would act better if there were students in our committee meetings, and there aren’t. That was a very unusual thing at Pitzer from the beginning. When I became an academic there would be no way in hell they would allow students near a faculty meeting […] That is from the beginning and very unusual.” — Deborah Deutsch Smith ’68, Trustee

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President Ellsworth

Other interested faculty could always attend Board meetings. Today, I know that they talk about public sessions being 15 minutes out of a 2 – 3 hour meeting. It was exactly the reverse. There was a 15 – 20 minute executive session of the Board and the rest of the Board was wide open. I think that contributed to a sense of involvement. Faculty and students came to Board meetings as well… It was a time when there was a lot of exchange that went on between the Board and college community.” — Tom Illgen, Professor of Political Studies

1980: The position of Student Convener is created to represent students of Pitzer College at meetings between the student body presidents of the Claremont Colleges.
1983: From an issue of The Other Side: WASC suggests that the governance system changes substantially to a more centralized system rather than its practiced expansive model.

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Yesterday, May 8, there was a College Council meeting of which non of the Student Representatives were informed. At this College Council meeting, the faculty passed a proposal calling for General Education goals. […] … the Student Representatives were not informed of the meeting could have been an unusual, but innocent oversight. If it was not, then it was an inexcusable and blatant affront to the spirit of community governance and borders on outright deception.” — Eric Kyner, Convener of Students

1985: Pitzer College withdrew all investments from companies that were active in South Africa, after student activism around the issues facing that country. (07/21/85)Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 1.56.13 PM

1988: The Student Direct Action Committee was created by students who believed the governance power at Pitzer College should be concentrated at the “Town Hall Meetings”.

1989: Composition of Dean’s Nominating Committee: 5 faculty (including a member of FEC), 1 student member of FEC, 1 Administrator, and 1 Trustee


  • Public art became an important topic at the College.
  • The construction project that included the Broad Center, Broad Hall, and the Gold Student Center featured student representatives on the planning committee.

1990: The new governance structure at the college included a Faculty Council, Staff Council, and Student Senate.

Frank Ellsworth resigns as president of Pitzer College, effective at the end of the 1991 academic year. (12/01/90)

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Marilyn Massey is inaugurated as President.

Following the resignation of Frank Ellsberg, the Board of Trustees created a Presidential Search Committee composed of six trustees, two faculty, the Dean of Faculty, and one student.

The Pitzer College Student Senate was created (Fall 1990).

By-Laws of Faculty and Student Governance, Preamble: “Faculty members, students and administrators are partners in the achievement of the educational mission of the college, each with their own area of primary responsibility: the faculty for the academic and professional concerns, students for the area of life, and the administration for institutional leadership and guardianship, and for the approval and the implementation of policies recommended by faculty members and students in their primary areas of responsibility. […].” — Werner Warmbrunn, Professor of History (27/06/90)

Proposal for the Student Senate, I. FUNCTION: “The purpose of the following proposal is to create a more streamlined and effective governance system at Pitzer by consolidating student power, increasing student participation, and facilitating better communication among the different branches of the governance structure. The principle means by which the above goals will be achieved is through the creation of a Student Senate, by way of merging the Community Relations Committee (C.R.C.) and Student College Council. The Student Senate would discuss and make appropriate policy recommendations pertaining to student life and community issues (formerly duties of C.R.C.), as well as discussing items on the agenda of College Council. Members of the Student Senate would serve as the student voting representatives to College Council.”

1991: Paul Ranslow is appointed Acting President of Pitzer College until the appointment of the next president. (05/14/91 – 07/01/92)

Presidential Search Committee members met with the college community to devise the standards they would use in determining qualified candidates. With comments from students, staff, faculty and trustees, the committee came up with specifications of the ideal Pitzer presidential candidate.

1992: Marilyn Chapin Massey is appointed as the fourth President of Pitzer College and served until 2002.

1995: The Public Art Committee was created to regulate art on campus, later changed to the Campus Aesthetics Committee.

An ad hoc meeting changed the rules of the Executive Committee of the Faculty to limit student voice on faculty cases at College Council meetings.


Because the nature of the governance of the place had changed. Susan Pritzker was the chair, or became the chair, and she created a very different kind of culture. Governance culture. Much more horizontal, not hierarchical and great, over time, great deal of work done in the board committees. Good discussions about hard things and the people were great. And the cause obviously good.” — Robin Kramer ’75, Trustee

Professor Illgen

2002: Laura Skandera Trombley selected to be the fifth President of Pitzer College, following the resignation of Marilyn Chapin Massey

“[Under the leadership of Trombley], College Council became a kinda rump session. It didn’t meet very much. The Senior Staff members frequently did not come, they did not give reports.… People didn’t really have a sense of what was going on in the various offices. I think that was an intentional strategy on part of the President, quite frankly… Our most recent presidentScreen Shot 2015-11-11 at 2.01.29 PM believed that she should be involved in everything that goes in the campus.” —Tom Illgen, Professor of Political Studies

There was a lot of give and take. […] it’s like in a family, oh yes my mother and father they have shared governance. No, there is give and take, and if you are up late enough you sometimes hear it. That kind of sensibility. That was built in. Somewhere along the line that kind of give and take, it seemed to me,  got very fragmented and fragile and […]  I think it probably reached its low point with the last presidency. Not because the last president was a bad president. But because she came in to a college though there was lots of talk about the […] culture of Pitzer. […] She could see, and as I said early on, the formal structure of the college was that the president made the decisions. The faculty committees, the College Council committees gave recommendations and the president makes the decisions. She comes into this place and begins to act like a president. Like a president at almost any other place. And nobody seems to notice. Until the one thing that is left, which is left which every faculty members still knows, is the Dean of Faculty. That’s our administrator. You can’t just […] In sociology there is an idea that there is a set of cultural boundaries, in anthropology, where does one group end and another group begins. Where is the place where you violated, even though there is no description of all the cultural norms and rules and understandings and sensibilities, there comes a point where you get angry with someone for doing something that you thinks violates something. Well that was it, it seems to me.” — Al Schwartz, Professor of Sociology

2004: I know there were concerns related to personnel actions taken during the summers. There was one summer […] Staff members that were kind of big presences on campus all of a sudden were just gone. And students found out that they were let go or had just quit for some reason and we were never provided any feedback. And that was sort of an area of concern for Senate, I remember. Because people were kind of like whoa, we are supposed to be part of this too. It was sort of reiterated to us, that well it’s staff. it’s an administrative issue. It’s under the president’s purview. It’s hard to keep people informed during the summer. But ultimately it’s an administrative issue. It doesn’t involve the students directly. So it was what it was. I think that was kind of the explanation that was given.” —Rebecca Takahashi ’06

The strategic plan was all about creating task forces on this, task forces on that. It was designed to create a parallel governance structure that would bypass as much as possible the committee that the college already had. It was going to create task forces to get things done. Seven of them as I recall. Eventually it passed, but not with a whole lot of faculty buy in and that’s now the guiding document for who we hire or what sort of academic programs we start or what we do with financial aid. It was a major planning document.” — Stuart McConnell, Professor of History


If people have a fundamental trusting working relationship with each other, then the governance structure by which they get there does not matter very much. Task Force, College Council, mass meeting, Presidential fiat…if you don’t have that, then no march through the quad, no opening up of public records is going to make the slightest bit of difference.” — Stuart McConnell, Professor of History

2012: Students defended their one seat majority on the Campus Life Committee.

2013: Votes for student representatives on the Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure Committee were challenged by influences from the American Association of University Professors. (Fall 2013)

The student members of the APT Committee have been thoughtful and diligent during the two years I have been on the committee. However, I think it is a faculty decision as to whether to continue with student representation which does not align with the recommendations of the American Association of University Professors statement of faculty governance.” — Muriel Poston in interview with The Student Life

The Pitzer College Student Senate passed Resolution 50-R-5, a resolution in commemoration and support of student voice and participation on the governing committees of Pitzer College. (11/10/13)

2014: The first Student Voice Week is hosted by the Pitzer College Student Senate to celebrate the tradition of student participation in the shared governance structure and to fight for more involvement of the student body in said governance structure. (02/03/14 – 02/07/14)

2015: The Pitzer College Student Senate approved Resolution 51-R-10, a resolution asking for more student representation on the Presidential Search Committee formed to find a replacement for President Laura Skandera Trombley. (03/01/15)

Faculty voted no confidence in President Laura Skandera Trombley eight days before her final day in her tenure as president of Pitzer College. (05/22/15)

It was a no confidence vote based on ignoring the principles of shared governance. There’s an ongoing presidential search process; you want to send a message, to the extent possible, about what we expect our president to do, which is to share governance with the faculty.” — Andre Wakefield, Professor of History, in an interview with The Student Life

The Pitzer College Student Senate passed Resolution 52-R-1, a resolution in support of shared governance at Pitzer College in response to the dismissal of Dean of Faculty Muriel Poston. (09/27/15)

…Getting a new president after one has served for a long time and after there have been a lot of changes with the college, it’s a big deal. Its a really big deal. And, I feel really confident and enthusiastic certainly about the faculty that are representing us on the search committee. I think [members of the search committee] are remarkable, thoughtful, and invested. […]. That to me, is a real positive example of shared governance that those committee members are working under a lot of really challenging circumstances to make a really big decision.” — Rachel VanSickle-Ward ’99, Professor of Political Studies

Project Contributors:
Andrew Lydens ’17, Lenore Byers ’16, Chance Kawar ’17, Josue Pasillas ’17, Kyle Dalrymple ’17, and Lora Funk ’16